Sari did not know how to feel. Her graduation was only two days away. She had really enjoyed studying education in literature at PUA (Province University of Academics) but she felt that she was not ready to work. Somehow, her education felt incomplete; the literature seemed censored somehow. There were things which did not quite add up when the stories were looked at closely. She had read many books, articles, novels, and research studies by many authors – most of them were men, but she could not help feeling as if a lot of what she read was only half true. For example, there was a true story about how a man named Bernard had found a homeless man who had been living in his yard for months without anyone noticing because the yard was so huge. This homeless man had been sneaking into the house to get food and clothes (which were also not noticed to be missing). When one of the workers finally found the homeless man, he called the authorities. Just as the homeless man was about to be arrested, Bernard came to the man’s rescue. This homeless man was taken in by Bernard and became one of his workers. However, when the man’s daughter found out where he was, she came to Bernard’s mansion and was told that the man was away on business. She returned two weeks later and was told that her father had sadly passed away after her first visit due to serious illnesses that he got from living on the streets. The interesting thing about this story was how the homeless man had produced a very beautiful painting of a valley. The man had supposedly given the painting to Bernard as a ‘thank you for saving my life’ gift and Bernard had sold it to the biggest art gallery for a very lovely sum of money. The painting is called “A Gift to a Master” and it expresses a homeless man’s gratitude to his master before he died. How convenient for Bernard. The story does not say what happened to the man’s daughter, or if she had known about the painting, or if Bernard had given her some of the money… nothing. That story never sat well with Sari. Sari had actually looked up the gallery in the university library and she had seen the picture of the painting as well as a picture of Bernard who was a polished looking man in his fifties.
It was a Saturday afternoon and Mami was having high tea with some women. Sari and Keke had stayed up all night making scones, ginger biscuits, Swiss rolls, chocolate cupcakes and sesame seed breadsticks. The breadsticks were the worst because they were so time consuming. You had to let the dough rise and then knock it down and then roll the dough out into many thin strips and roll those strips over sesame seeds and then bake. The rolling out process took forever. It took them over an hour to make 120 sesame-seed breadsticks and Mami had asked for 200, but, by 12 midnight the girls were so fed up that they couldn’t care less.
Keke and Sari were running up and down replenishing the table, filling up teacups and washing the dishes. Sari walked into the kitchen with a silver tray of breadcrumbs in her hands and she dumped it on the kitchen table. Keke was leaning against the sink facing the door so she saw Sari when she walked in and rolled her eyes.
“Can these women eat or what?” Keke took the tray and wiped it down and passed it over to Sari who opened up the big white bucket on the counter and began to pull out some scones and arrange them on the silver tray.
“Why are they even having this high tea thing? This is an excuse to torture other people’s daughters and eat their free food.” Sari complained. “I am going out one last time, after that you will be going out and I will stay in the kitchen.” She continued.
Finally around 6pm the women started to leave. They asked to use the toilet and asked for doggie bags and finally walked out of the house and out of Keke and Sari’s hair. While Keke and Sari were cleaning up outside after the women had left, Mami was sitting on a garden chair sipping some red wine. She called for Keke and asked her to stop what she was doing for a while and come and sit next to her.
“Did you see Mrs. Muphet? She was the last woman to leave; the one who was wearing the big pink hat?”
“Yes I saw her Mami.” Keke responded.
“Her son wants to marry you.” Keke gasped a little out of shock, but she was flattered.
“Well not right now. He will get to know you first, court you… yada yada yada. He is from a good family. His father is a professor and he is studying to be a doctor. Lots of money, you will be well cared for.”
Keke was not sure how to respond, this was big news. Sari had overheard that part of the conversation but she did not know how Keke responded. So when they both walked into the kitchen she could not resist the urge to find out more.
“So Mami, you arranged a husband for Keke?” Mami looked annoyed and brushed it away with her hand, “Not your business Sari.”
“But Mami…” Before she could even finish Mami turned on her heels to face Sari, wine glass still in hand. “Sari, as you learnt at your flower ceremony, there is nothing greater in a woman’s life than finding a good man who can provide for her and create a family to be proud of. Godfrey is a good man. I am looking out for Keke and I will do my best to do the same for you.” Mami looked Sari up and down when she said “you”.
Sari could not believe it. She had known that her mother was not always proud of her but right now, right now she was feeling contempt from her mother.
“And what if I do not accept this… man that you decide I should have. What if I am not ready when you choose him for me and I still want to study and… (she was going to say travel but she stopped herself). What if Keke wants to find herself her own man to decide if she wants to marry him or not? What if Keke is not ready to be a wife?”
“Ready!” Mami put her hand to her heart and laughed sarcastically. She was almost as distraught as when she found Sari playing in the garden that day at the wedding. “There is no question of being ready, or wanting to. This is a duty! This is a duty as a woman, and if you were not too busy climbing up trees and getting a damn education like it means something, you would understand! But no, you have your head in the clouds; you think you are a man. Women your age have started preparing themselves for marriage!” Mami’s l mouth trembled.
There was a long silent pause. Sari realised that she was a disappointment to her mother. Mami had always shut down her imagination and her dreams. Sari’s heart was bleeding. She held back the tears and began to speak, “I just feel that we should have a fair chance to figure ourselves out, find our true purpose before we decide to become wives and mothers. That’s all I want Mami. I am not against marriage, I just want… purpose.” She exhaled heavily.
Mami put her glass down on the kitchen counter and folded her arms. “Marriage is our purpose my dear daughter.”